These are my parents, who've been married for 32 (!!!) years. Congrats, you crazy kids.
Sheila and Bill got married in 1983, and then went on to have me and my brother. A year into dating him my mom knew that she wanted to marry my dad, because, "When I didn't see him I just really missed him a whole lot."
And more specifically, this is my Mom, who is also my personal hero.
And seeing as I'm getting married next year, I wanted to ask Sheila, my hero, for her advice on marriage.
I asked her everything from simple ways to do something nice for your spouse, to how to navigate a tough fight, and the rough patches that every marriage inevitably faces. I learned a lot about my parents, and what it takes to make a marriage work.
Erin: Do you think people should be best friends with their partners?
Mom: That would be the ideal situation. Absolutely.
What should you do when you have a fight?
Mom: Don't be hurtful. Don't say mean things. Don't always think you're right, even though you probably are. Don't be ugly or nasty or mean. Because, actually, if you do say hateful, mean, hurtful things, I don't think you can take it back.
So, being married forever is a long time. What should you do if you or your partner gets a crush on someone else?
Mom: Oh, you'd have to really talk about it.
Erin: Like laugh it off or a serious discussion?
Mom: A serious discussion.
Erin: How do you bring it up?
Mom: You just bring it up. You could say, "Oh by the way, you may not have noticed this, but I believe so-and-so is kind of calling you up or becoming friends with you and I'm upset about it."
I think women have this intuition and they just see the way other women operate and where they're coming from, even though the guy could be totally oblivious to it.
How did you and Dad know that you wanted to have children? Was it a discussion?
How do you stay interested in each other for as long as you have?
Mom: He has his interests and I have mine. He likes the car races. You don't have to be interested in everything. He's a little bit opposite of what my interests are, but he comes back so much happier after he's hanging out with his friends at the races and he comes back and he tells me all about it.
It's like a little break sometimes from one another. I learn something new from him about all these car races and I guess different interests are actually a good thing. He's taught me things that I'm unaware of.
Erin: And that helps?
Mom: Absolutely. It's always good to have friends and different interests. I'm not very controlling of his time and he's not a control person of my time. I think everyone needs a little break and to pursue their different interests that most people have. You're not the same people. You're different.
This is super awkward to ask, but what about staying physically interested in a person? How do you do that after 32 years? That's a long time with one person.
What's a nice, everyday thing to do for your spouse?
Mom: Just little things, like, say, if they're busy at work and they want you to do like a little errand for them, or to call somebody, or check something out. It's always nice to get that done. If you make something special for dinner, if you do that, it's always nice. It just means that you're being thoughtful and considerate of the person.
Has there been anything about being married that really surprised you?
Mom: Yeah. Some quirkiness things. Like things that would bother him wouldn't necessarily bother me. It's going to sound weird, but if there's a light bulb out, it really seems to bother your Dad. It bothers him. Any light out and he just gets fixated on it.
Erin: So how do you deal with that quirk for rest of your life without trying to change the other person?
Mom: Well think of your own quirks and weird habits and what they have to put up with, and then you can sort of laugh it off. Because we all have quirks and weird habits. It's the human condition.
What do you do to get through hard times in a marriage?
Mom: Time has a way of healing things and looking at things in the right perspective. Sometimes we get upset, in the moment, but then when we look back, we could say, "Why did I get so upset about that?" I think time is a good healer and just sleeping on things. Thinking things through.
How do you maintain your identity in a marriage? And after becoming a parent?
Me: How does marriage change after the first few years to now, after 32 years?
Mom: I think your Dad and I are definitely very comfortable, more laid-back, not so much sweating the small stuff. You have a bigger perspective, or a bigger picture of life because, we've had losses in our family and that's serious.
What do you think is key to a happy and successful marriage?
Mom: The most important thing is their character. They have to have good character. They have to basically be a good person. Kindness, consideration, not so self-absorbed, putting your needs before their own.
Also the way they treat their mothers. That's really important.
What do you wish you knew about marriage before you got married?
Mom: I wish I knew that it would actually make me be a better person, and your Dad has made me be a better person. He's very non-judgmental about people and I think I was a little bit more judgmental, but he always is on the side of the underdog.
I was a more serious person and he's kind of lightened my outlook on people, on life, on situations. He's lightened it almost like, just don't worry about it. Forget about it. Like that Italian expression, "Forget about it." And when you do forget about it, it actually is a good thing.